Coffee is still the most popular drink in the world (after water), and it's much more than just hot water and coffee. In the last few years a new kind of coffee, cold brew, has started appearing everywhere and it has caused quite a stir.
Most people have heard of cold brew and hot brew coffee, but you may not know the differences. In this guide we'll give you the full hot vs cold brew coffee breakdown and help you understand the difference so you know exactly what to order on your next visit to the cafe.
Cold Vs Hot Brew Coffee - Key Differences Compared
So you may have heard of, or in fact, drank both hot brew and cold brew coffee, but what are the differences between cold and hot brews?
Brewing Time & Production Process
The first main difference between cold brew vs hot brew is the brewing time, though this can vary depending on which coffee maker you're using.
Cold brew coffee is not like iced coffee. It has a completely different process to standard roast coffee or drip coffee, but it's still quite simple to make your own cold brew:
- Combine coffee grounds with cold water (filtered cold water is best).
- Leave the mixture for 8-24 hours. Steeping ground coffee beans like this will allow it to absorb the cold brew coffee taste from the coffee beans.
- Filter out the grounds (a french press often works well).
- Pour out and enjoy your cold brew, or dilute your own cold brew concentrate to make it easier to drink.
In contrast, it's a lot simpler to make regular brewed coffee:
- Add hot water to ground coffee or instant coffee.
- Stir to combine as the hot water extracts the flavor.
- Add an extras, and enjoy your hot brew.
Cold brew coffee can take up to 24 hours, but regular hot coffee can be made instantly.
This is because the beans have already been prepared and roasted, so you don't need as long to create the cold brew coffee taste.
If you want a quick and easy beverage then go with hot brews, but if you have more time then you should consider a cold brew.
Caffeine Content (Strength)
The caffeine level of your coffee depends on the quantity of beans used and the time they are in the water, and this is one of the key differences between cold and hot brews.
Cold brew tends to use more beans and the brewing process means that the ground coffee beans are in the cold water for longer. Plus, the lack of hot brewing means that more caffeine is retained in a cold brew.
Hot brewing coffee is quicker, but means that less caffeine is retained. This can be overcome if you brew regular coffee with more coffee beans, but generally they are weaker.
Your average hot coffee will have 70-120mg of caffeine, whereas a cold brew has 150-250mg.
This makes them a noticeably stronger coffee and better suited for those who appreciate a bigger caffeine fix.
Coffee Taste and Drinking Flavor
All coffee drinkers want to have a great tasting cup of coffee but the variations in hot and cold brew recipes gives them a very different taste.
The process of brewing hot coffee means that the aromas and flavors are extracted quickly with the hot water. This gives you more acidity, but also a bold and intense flavor.
Cold brews are made by steeping coffee grounds in water for a long time, and this extraction process means the flavor is less intense. This gives you a much smoother drink with less acidity and bitterness, but that also gives you more of the floral or fruity notes from the coffee beans.
A hot cup of coffee will have a bolder, more bitter, and generally stronger flavor profile which is similar to an espresso. A cold brew coffee will be smoother and have a more refined flavor (despite having more caffeine).
Coffee Grind Size
When you're making cold or hot brews the grind size can be just as important as the type of coffee bean you use.
Cold coffee is best with a coarse grind, whereas hot coffee is best with a medium grind.
Cold brews use a brewing process that relies on using very coarse grounds. The coarser the ground coffee, the longer the brewing process needs to be to extract the flavor.
This means it works really well with the cold process which involves steeping the ground coffee in room temperature water for a long time. This leads to greater extraction of the delicate flavors and makes it easier to filter the coffee grounds out at the end.
In contrast, when you're making hot coffee you should generally use medium coffee grounds, or at least that's what most traditional coffee shops use.
A medium grind size helps to give you the great flavor found in all popular hot coffee drinks, without creating a very thick coffee which can happen when you use a very fine grind size.
Water Temperature Needed
When comparing cold brew vs hot coffee there's obviously going to be a big difference between the water temperature needed.
Hot brew coffee needs a water temperature of about 195F. The heated water extracts more flavor and aromas from the ground coffee beans, but be sure not to use boiling water in hot brews because it can ruin the smooth taste.
Cold brews need a low water temperature for the brewing method. Room temperature water can be ok for steeping coffee grounds, but the best temperature is 50-59F. This gives you a delicious cold brew and an all round great tasting coffee.
Negative Health Aspects
When deciding between a cold brew vs hot coffee you need to consider which is healthier, but with coffee that can be hard to define. With hot and cold coffee it generally comes down to calories and caffeine level.
A cold brew has 5-15 calories, and a typical cup of hot brew coffee tends to have 5-10 calories.
They both have roughly the same amount of calories because they are really just ground coffee beans and water. However, the calories can start to add up if you use milk, cream, sugar, or syrups to give you a different flavor in your drink.
Caffeine can impact people in different ways, and there are numerous studies on caffeine and coffee. The consensus is that in moderation, coffee can be healthy for us in numerous ways. The issues with caffeine come when you drink more caffeine than your body can process, which is why need to keep track of how much caffeine you're having a day.
A cold brew has 150-250mg of caffeine whereas regular hot brew coffee has 70-120mg. Hot coffee therefore has less caffeine, so if you're caffeine sensitive it may be the better option.
Both hot brew coffee and brewed cold coffee can also have an impact on your teeth. Staining and erosion can be a problem, but cold brewed coffee has less acidity so it's less likely to damage your teeth compared to hot coffee.
Common Milk Options
Vegan and dairy free diets are on the rise and many people like to use alternative milks in their favorite cup of hot or cold brew coffee.
Both cold brew and hot brewed coffee work well with any type of milk, and most coffee shops will have a variety on offer.
Common milk options which work well in cold and regular brewed coffees include:
- Whole milk (hot whole milk is often used in hot brewed coffee)
- Soy milk (better in hot coffee vs cold coffee)
- Oat milk (works well with hot coffee to give a sweet nutty flavor)
- Almond milk (often used in iced coffee)
- Goat's milk (which can give a sweeter taste)
Price In Cafes
The price of your favorite hot brew coffee or cold brew can vary depending on where you order it from.
The average cold brew costs about $4, whereas a regular hot brew coffee costs about $2, so a cold brew coffee is noticeably more expensive.
This is largely down the brewing methods and ingredients. A cold brew coffee uses more beans and takes significantly longer to make that a cold brew coffee. So, even though a traditional hot brew coffee needs electricity or a heat source to be ready to drink, it's actually a much simpler process.
Hot Freshly Brewed Coffee - Why Is It So Popular?
Hot brew coffee is the OG of hot drinks, the master of all, the big kahuna.
People have been drinking hot brewed coffee for a long time now, and it has become an integral routine and ritual in the morning for a vast percentage of the planet.
For the majority of people, hot brew coffee is made with a coffee machine or by pouring hot water over instant coffee, which is roasted and dried out before use.
Some people may use a drip machine too, which drips hot water over ground beans to create a stronger, more accurate flavor compared to instant coffee.
If you prefer a coffee with more body and a robust, rich flavor, then you will probably prefer hot brewed coffee over a cold brew.
Cold Brew Coffee - Why do People Like It?
Cold-brew coffee is made by steeping your coffee in room or cold-temperature water for an extended period of time. By doing this slowly, the flavor of the coffee change to a more mellow taste which is less acidic, and pairs well with chocolate and fruits.
Brewing the coffee this way changes the method of brewing from a heat-based one to a time-based one, sometimes taking up to 24 hours to brew depending on the desired taste profile.
Often, the cold brew coffee is then made into a concentrated mixture which can be watered down to preference. This is what makes most cold brew coffees stronger than their hot brew companions.
In hot pour-over and drip coffees, the water to coffee ratio is around about 1 to 16, with the amount of coffee directly impacting how many parts water are used in the recipe. In cold brew there is a different coffee to water ratio, with sometimes 1 part coffee to 8 or 9 parts water.
Surprisingly, you can actually heat cold brew coffee if you want a hot beverage, but cold brew coffee is generally popular amongst those who dislike warm drinks - so it's not done very often.
Cold brews are also popular with those that find regular coffee too bitter for their palate because the cold brewing process really reduces the bitterness. This leaves with a strong, but smooth beverage that coffee drinkers around the world love.
Ninja Hot & Cold Brewed System Vs Keurig
Regular coffee has long been made with a french press, drip machine, or other regular coffee maker. However the differences in brewing method between cold brew vs hot brew makes it more difficult to find a coffee maker that can do both.
Both of these machines can be used to brew hot coffee and cold coffee, and they excel in different areas. This special equipment makes it easy to choose one or the other depending on your specific needs and preferences in terms of coffee.
The Ninja is the perfect choice for people who like regular coffee and cold brew coffee. It has a cold brew function and a special basket recognition system which makes the whole cold brew process really simple and easy for new users.
The Keurig is the better coffee maker choice for those who prefer coffees warm and whipped, like cappuccinos or lattes. It’s as simple as adding milk to the milk foamer up to the lines and pressing start.
The Ninja does have the edge for those who have less space as the frother folds away, meaning the machine has a lower profile but still has the ability to froth milk when needed. The Ninja also has the ability to hold 10 cups of coffee at once, making it an excellent option for a small workplace or large family that drinks a lot of coffee.
If you are really on the fence, here is our suggestion.
Love cold brew or need to batch make coffee often? Stick with the Ninja.
Love lattes and cappuccinos and want the easiest experience? Grab the Keurig.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Why is the cold brew more expensive?
It's more expensive to order a cold brew vs hot brew, and your average cold brews will cost about $4. In contrast, a hot brew will only cost about $2.
This is because cold brews are made by steeping ground coffee beans in cold water which takes a lot longer. Plus, cold brews use more beans. In contrast, hot brews and drip coffee are made a lot more quickly and use fewer ingredients, so that keeps the cost down.
Is cold brew stronger than espresso?
This is a tricky question to answer as both cold brew and hot brew will have a caffeine content dependent upon the beans used. Espresso in hot brew is notoriously strong and in terms of flavor strength, espresso is much stronger. However, when it comes to cold brew vs hot brew cold brew has a lot more caffeine.
Is Starbucks cold brew considered strong?
When it comes to cold brew vs hot brew, the Starbucks cold brewed coffee is much stronger. In fact, a grande size cup of cold brewed coffee from Starbucks can contain up to 200 mg of caffeine which makes it pretty strong for a single serving - even though it does taste great.
However, this doesn't make their cold brew stronger than competitors and a Starbucks cold brew has about the same caffeine level as other strong brews.
Is it okay to drink cold brew coffee every day?
Caffeine consumption should always be restricted and moderated, some people can survive with little to no caffeine, and some require huge amounts and aren't affected by the side effects.
One of the key differences between cold brew vs hot brew is the amount of caffeine, and because of the different brewing methods some cold brews have over double the amount of caffeine in a regular hot brew coffee.
It's a good idea to limit yourself to 2-3 hot brews a day (with your last hot cup of coffee before 1pm), and try to have less than 2 cold brews a day to avoid issues sleeping.
There you have it, you now know all the key differences between cold brew and hot coffees all summed up in one place.
Hot brewed coffee is great for those who love more the intense, full-bodied flavor that comes from the acidity. Cold brew coffee is great for those who prefer milder flavors and less bitterness that comes from the lower acidity. Just remember that cold brewed coffee is not the same as iced coffee, and cold brewing is a completely different technique.
Hopefully you now know everything about cold brew vs hot brewed coffee and you feel ready to tackle that hipster coffee shop with a smile on your face.